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No time to put on the Brakes

Submitted photo Audrey Brake is shown in the Wilmont Heritage Center with the centennial quilt and the cabinet with the bound Wilmont Tribune newspapers in the background.1 / 2
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WILMONT -- Audrey Brake enjoys what she does, which is a lot.

The Wilmont native has been active in the city's Community Center and Heritage Center. She also writes a history column for the bi-weekly Wilmont Shopper, works as a substitute teacher for Adrian's middle and high schools and is involved behind the scenes in the annual St. Killian plays.

"I've always lived in the Wilmont area," Brake said.

She graduated high school in Worthington, attended junior college and finished her education in Mankato with a teaching degree in business education.

Brake has been a substitute teacher in Adrian for 21 years. She teaches about every subject in both the middle school and the high school.

"I've taught math, English to phys ed -- everything. I really enjoy it," Brake said with a laugh.

Brake said the teachers know what she can do and can't do.

"It really works out well," Brake said.

Brake said she enjoys working with the students and the staff in Adrian.

"As a part-time job -- I guess what you call it, it's more or less full-time -- I like my summers off, so it's the perfect job," Brake said.

In 1999, Wilmont built its community center following its centennial.

"We had a community quilt made and decided we should have a room we can display it in," Brake said. "The quilt is in the Heritage Center [located inside the Community Center], and we've added a lot of things to the Heritage Center through the last few years."

Brake said she hopes it is a draw for current and former residents alike.

"Now we have 10-11 years of Wilmont papers from 1949-1966 and we have a lot of advertising memorabilia ... and a lot of scrapbooks," Brake said. "And a couple of displays of memories about Wilmont."

She said the Heritage Center is a small room, "but there is a lot to see."

She also writes a history column for the Wilmont Shopper.

"I asked Judy Christians if she would be interest in a years-ago column, because when we got ready for the centennial, I had all the Wilmont papers from before 1948," Brake said. "The 1949 papers were lost in a fire up in the Minnesota Historical Society."

Brake then combed through newspapers from surrounding towns and found short columns and stories from each town with Wilmont news.

Brake said she copied and saved these articles and initially didn't know what she would do with them.

"So I asked [Judy] if she would want it [historical column] as part of the Shopper and she said 'yeah,' so I've done it ever since it started," Brake said.

Brake said she has had positive feedback from citizens and former citizens about her column, and that former citizens enjoy reading it online.

Brake said she copies the articles exactly at they were printed.

"They worded things a lot different and I copy it the exact way it was; I don't make a short summary," Brake said. "They were very detailed, whether it was good or bad. Every detail was in the article, and I think that's what makes it fun for people to read."

Brake doesn't normally approach the biweekly column in a chronological order, but this year she sort of strayed from that.

"1906 was the first full year and 1907, I had articles for those full years, so that's how I picked them," Brake said. "There were items from 1901 and 1902 I found, but it won't be a full year."

Brake put the articles in binders and approaches the columns by going through and finding interesting items.

"Sometimes it's just a birth of a baby, but it's a family that used to be from Wilmont years ago and there's not many family members around anymore," Brake said.

Brake said people find her column online, and she often gets emails from people who find stories of their relatives.

Brake also is involved with the St. Killian Community Theater production.

"Most everybody would call me director, but I'm more of an organizer. That would be my title, organizer," Brake said.

Brake said she finds and reads the annual plays and tries to find the right people for the right parts.

"I set up practice times and then, if I'm not there, they go on their own," Brake said. "But I'm usually there."

Brake said it's a lot of work, but plenty of fun.

"We laugh and have such a good time at practice ... it isn't work, it really isn't," Brake said with a smile.

She said everyone should try participating in a play.

"The ones who try it keep wanting to come back. Most all of them really enjoy it," Brake said.

Brake finds the plays from companies that send her various books.

"There are about four of them that get sent to you and they usually give a synopsis of each play and tell you how many characters are in them and whether they are a comedy or a drama," Brake said. "But we always go for the comedies."

She said the plays usually have 10 to 12 people in them.

Brake explained she usually picks the plays she thinks will work well for the group.

Last year, the play that was performed was noticed by its author, Scott Hahn.

"He found out through the Internet that we were doing it and contacted us," Brake said. "It was a highlight."

She said they invited Hahn, but he lived in Indiana and couldn't make it.

"We sent pictures to him, and he gave praise to how it looked. It looked like the cast was having a lot of fun," Brake said. "He must have taken a magnifying glass to the pictures because he knew what we had on the wall. But he was hoping we had a good time."

Brake said there are four performances in two weekends for each annual play.

Brake said she has performed on the stage, but in small roles because she said she's "more of a behind-the- scenes person."

"I get too nervous up there," she said.

Brake also plays the accordion as well.

"I go to the Meadows here in town [Worthington] and the Adrian nursing home," I even brought it to school a couple of times," she added with a laugh.

Brake said she plays the accordion at the school around Christmas time, with the teachers singing along.

"The kids, they get a kick out of that," Brake said with a smile.

She said during the end band once, she let a few students try it out.

"They thought that was really something," Brake said.

She also performs at Pioneer Village around Christmas in the saloon.

Brake said she is helping with keeping the bowling alley in Wilmont going and plays in a women's league.

"I've been secretary of that for over 40 years," Brake said. "Each year we manage to keep the league going."

She said it is a good way for her to get together with people from around town.

"I like that," Brake said.

Audrey Brake does a lot in her community and surrounding communities.

"It keeps me busy," she said with a laugh.